Felicitating the best in Indian journalism at the Sixth Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards ceremony on Tuesday,Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam said media is the ark of the covenant of democracy and rejected any move to have an external regulator for it.
The temptation to correct the media through an external regulatory authority may seem a dominant urge,but it is surely not the answer. The press is naturally and rightly touchy about it. External regulation could result in a perilous departure from the cherished principle of the freedom of the press as the sine qua non of our democracy, said Justice Sathasivam.
The awards,in 29 categories,were given for work done in 2010. Josy Joseph of The Times of India was awarded the Journalist of the Year (Print) for his expose of the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scandal,uncovering how rules were bent to favour several senior army officers,bureaucrats and politicians for apartments in prime Mumbai location,making the government order a probe and forcing a chief minister out of office.
Ravish Kumar of NDTV India was awarded the Journalist of the Year (Broadcast) for the sensitivity,seriousness and research he brings to discussions,routinely turning the spotlight on an India that rarely gets space on TV in his programmes Prime Time,Ravish Ki Report and Hum Log.
Veteran journalist and commentator Inder Malhotra was given the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Among the distinguished guests who attended the function were Finance Minister P Chidambaram,Law and Communications and Information and Techonology Minister Kapil Sibal,Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari,New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah,Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar,Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia,Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan,Commerce Minister Anand Sharma,senior BJP leader L K Advani,Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley,Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda,MP Deepender Singh Hooda,CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury,CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy,Congress leader Ajay Maken,CBI chief Ranjit Sinha,Attorney General G E Vahanvati,legal luminary Fali Nariman,Prime Ministers Special Envoy on Pakistan and Afghanistan Satinder Lambah,former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi and economist Lord Meghnad Desai.
Addressing the gathering,Justice Sathasivam,chief guest for the function,said a self-regulatory and responsible journalism were the ideas consistent with the freedom of thought and expression and the courts and media must work hand in hand for enabling wider reach of justice to the common masses. He urged journalists to act prudently,with a sense of duty towards society and the country.
The CJI also cautioned the media against irresponsible reporting on sub-judice matters and flashing prejudiced,sensational and provocative headlines in an attempt to be the first to break the news. He said the growing trend of media by trial has led to a real conflict between the two conflicting principles free press and free trial.
A media that cherishes its independence must recognise that this freedom is as essential for the judiciary to deliver justice as it is for the media to observe its impartiality, he said.
Advocating a balanced approach so that a trial is not prejudiced,he said it was observed that the media creates a mindset about right or wrong. When the judgment is not on those lines,the judges image is tarnished and all sorts of motives are attributed to him and his judgment becomes suspect, he said.
Justice Sathasivam said a free press is as important as a responsible press,and every journalist should be conscious to ensure that journalism does not become a destructive force.
With the advent of 24-hour satellite news channels,Internet and blogs,the task before todays mediapersons is more demanding. Never allow the market forces to determine the news. Remember,journalisms first obligation is to the truth and its first loyalty is to the citizens, he added.
The stories that we award this evening tell us that you need more. That before we start talking,we need to start listening. And stories,reported and researched,are the only way there is to help all of us listen to those who are not heard. Or those who are too far away for their voice to carry to us, said Shekhar Gupta,Editor-in-Chief,The Indian Express.